- Nancy Pelosi enraged Republicans when she tore up Trump’s State of the Union address following its conclusion last week.
- On Thursday, the president shared a doctored video that depicted her ripping it up while he introduced Charles McGee, one of the last living Tuskegee airmen.
- Twitter and Facebook have resisted calls to remove the edited video, claiming it does not violate their rules, enraging Democrats and emboldening Republican attacks against the House speaker.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Democrats are outraged after Facebook and Twitter have both refused to remove a video the president tweeted that modified timing of events at last week’s State of the Union address to make it appear that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had actually torn up Trump’s speech while he was introducing Charles McGee, one of the last living Tuskegee airman.
Pelosi’s decision to tear up the president’s speech, which actually occurred at the conclusion of his State of the Union address on February 4, was controversial in and of itself. Democrats praised the House speaker for standing up to the president, who was acquitted by the Senate in his impeachment trial less than 24 hours later. Republicans were outraged over Pelosi’s move, with some calling for her to be reprimanded, claiming she potentially violated laws that prohibit the destruction of government documents.
While the discourse about Pelosi’s move, who upon exiting the address told reporters she “tore it up,” seemed to die down as the news cycle shifted on to other news, but on Thursday, the president reignited the fire about her polarizing act when he tweeted the edited version of the video.
In a video of the actual moment, Pelosi tore the speech when the president had concluded his address that lasted about an hour and 20 minutes.
Trump has a history of sharing doctored content from unknown sources
It’s unclear where exactly the edited video came from, though the president has sometimes shared videos that are likely created by individuals outside the White House. It’s hard to tell since he doesn’t state the origin of such videos, which get shared by his supporters.
The president in July, for example, tweeted an edited TIME magazine graphic that showed him remaining as the US president forever. That video was created by a popular Trump-supporting meme account known as “Carpe Donktum,” which often tweets doctored videos that end up getting shared by the 45th president.
—Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2019
Coincidentally, Trump shared the video again on Sunday, writing “this will never get old!”
“Content that I post was ‘Doctored’ by me,” Donktum said in his Twitter bio, seeming to acknowledge that his clips don’t often depict reality.
Business Insider reached out to Donktum, who was also connected to the controversial video that depicted Trump killing his journalists and critics that was played at a pro-Trump event in Florida in October 2019, but did he did not respond to the request. Twitter had in October suspended the pro-Trump meme account, citing a copyright violation, though it eventually restored the account.
The video the president tweeted was not the first time he had shared a doctored video of Pelosi, a Democrat from California. Pelosi last year criticized Facebook for refusing to remove a video of her that had been doctored to make it appear as if she had been slurring and stammering over her words.
There was a spat between Pelosi’s team and Facebook
“The American people know that the President has no qualms about lying to them – but it is a shame to see Twitter and Facebook, sources of news for millions, do the same,” Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, tweeted about the video Friday.
“The latest fake video of Speaker Pelosi is deliberately designed to mislead and lie to the American people, and every day that these platforms refuse to take it down is another reminder that they care more about their shareholders’ interests than the public’s interests,” Hammill added.
Andy Stone, Facebook’s policy communications manager, responded to Hammill’s tweet.
“Sorry, are you suggesting the President didn’t make those remarks and the Speaker didn’t rip the speech,” Stone asked.
“What planet are you living on? this is deceptively altered. take it down,” Hammill responded.
Stone confirmed Sunday to Business Insider that the edited video did not violate Facebook’s rules for removal. Specifically, Stone pointed toward two requirements that have to be met for the platform, which in October 2019 said its policy permits the president to lie in his campaign ads on the platform as they are not checked by the Menlo Park, California company’s third-party fact-checkers.
Stone said Facebook would only remove media had it “been edited or synthesized – beyond adjustments for clarity or quality – in ways that aren’t apparent to an average person and would likely mislead someone into thinking that a subject of the video said words that they did not actually say.”
Furthermore, to remove a video, Facebook requires it to be “the product of artificial intelligence or machine learning that merges, replaces or superimposes content onto a video, making it appear to be authentic,” Stone told Business Insider.
The video doesn’t violate Twitter rules, either — at least not yet.
An email to Twitter’s press office went unreturned, though the company said previously the video did not violate its current policy. Twitter announced in a blog post February 4 new rules about doctored media — slated to go into effect on March 5 — though it would not say whether the president’s video of Pelosi would be removed if it were tweeted once the new rules were enacted, according to the Daily Mail.
“You may not deceptively share synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm,” according to Twitter’s blog post about the March policy change. “In addition, we may label Tweets containing synthetic and manipulated media to help people understand the media’s authenticity and to provide additional context.”
The San, Francisco, California-based social media behemoth has regularly found itself on the defensive to explain its decisions regarding the president’s Twitter account since he assumed office in 2017. Last year, during her failed run for the Democratic Party’s nomination to take on Trump this November, Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California had even joined calls for Twitter to suspend the president from its platform over his behavior.
In October 2019, Twitter released separate rules applicable only world leaders, like the American president.
“We understand the desire for our decisions to be ‘yes/no’ binaries, but it’s not that simple,” Twitter said at the time. “The actions we take and policies we develop will set precedent around online speech and we owe it to the people we serve to be deliberate and considered in what we do.”
The company has often said it leaves the president’s potentially rule-violating content on the platform for discussion purposes. It last year instituted a policy of labeling tweets from accounts with more than 100,00 followers that violate its policies rather than removing them outright.
But in July 2019, when the president sent his now-infamous tweets directing a group of minority congresswomen (who all American citizens) to “go back” to their ancestral countries, Twitter said it would not label the tweets in violation of its policies — despite a policy prohibiting racist tropes on the platform.
Democrats want the clip removed, but Republicans say that would be censorship.
Still, Democrats are furious that the edited clip has remained on social media, racking up some 84,000 retweets and 225,000 likes on Twitter alone. On Facebook, the clip has been viewed almost 3 million times and shared more than 34,000 times.
“Hey @jack, show your commitment to cut down on the misinformation corroding our nation and take down this fake video,” Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat from Texas, tweeted.
—Rep. Veronica Escobar (@RepEscobar) February 7, 2020
California Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat, tweeted “social media platforms are a place where people come for news & information. They need to have certain standards. Falsity has never been part of our 1st Amendment tradition.”
Prominent Republicans, though, have demanded the clip remain on the platform.
“Don’t let the totalitarian censors win,” Benny Johnson, chief creative officer at Turning Point USA and popular right-wing Twitter personality, said. “Fight back. Pelosi does not want you to see this video simply because it shows how petty and insulting her act was at the SOTU.”
—Benny (@bennyjohnson) February 8, 2020
Fox News contributor and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee shared a similar sentiment.
“The video that Saint Pelosi doesn’t want America to see,” Huckabee said. “Demands that @Twitter and @Facebook remove. God help us if they cave to this! He gave the speech; she ripped it and with it the stories of great Americans.”
—Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) February 9, 2020
“Nancy Pelosi wants this video taken down. She would be really mad if you retweeted it…,” Arkansas Rep. Paul Gosar tweeted Saturday.
The White House did not respond to a Business Insider request for comment.
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